29 July 2020
Rosacea is a skin condition that causes redness, flushing, burning sensation and acne (papules and pustules). The two most common triggers for rosacea flares in Singapore are sun exposure and diet (food and drinks). You can read more about these triggers in this blogpost Rosacea: Symptoms, Triggers, Skincare and Treatments.
Patients who suffer from rosacea can have dry and sensitive skin. Besides medical treatments to keep rosacea at bay, self care with the appropriate skincare is necessary to protect the skin. Skincare ingredients that protect and repair the skin barrier can reduce flares and improve the symptoms of rosacea. This review will share skincare tips and how to pick rosacea-friendly active ingredients and products. If you have sensitive skin, these tips will also be useful, even if you do not have rosacea.
Rosacea can make skin hypersensitive and reactive, leading to rosacea flares even with showers and skincare. Keeping skin clean and free of dirt and chemicals reduces skin irritation and rosacea flares. However, it is important to do so without overdoing compromising your skin barrier.
My recommendation is to use gentle facial cleansers that clean the skin without stripping the skin of its protective lipids and proteins. Choose soap free, non-foaming cleansers with a low pH. Surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate are a big culprit. Milder surfactants like Cocamidopropyl betaine, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate and Sodium Lauryl Sarcosinate are better alternatives.
Secondly, choose a facial cleanser with a low pH. The skin’s normal pH is 4.5-5.5; so using a facial cleanser with an alkaline pH can also remove the skin’s protective oils and fats. This can exacerbate redness, dryness and irritation in rosacea.
Moisturisers reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL). In rosacea, dryness and skin irritation are common problems. Moisturisers that contain active ingredients that protect the skin barrier can also protect the skin from further irritation. Active ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides are useful in hydrating and fortifying the skin barrier.
If you find that your skin remains dry, consider using cream moisturisers instead of gels or lotions.
Skincare ingredients like niacinamide, cica and probiotics that have anti-inflammatory benefits to reduces skin sensitivity. However, in rosacea, they are usually of little help.
Exposure to UV rays from the sun is one of the top triggers for rosacea flares. Sun protection with sunscreen is one of the simplest ways to protect the skin from rosacea flares.
I’ve shared about how to choose sunscreens in Sunscreen Beyond the Basics: Controversies, Trends and FAQs. More tips for choosing sunscreen besides basics that you might already know about- broad spectrum and SPF 30 and above are covered in that blogpost.
Specifically for rosacea sufferers physical (inorganic) sunscreen filters like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are less irritating. Personally, I find that these sunscreen filters leave a chalky, white residue. If chemical (organic) sunscreen filters do not irritate your skin, consider choosing a sunscreen that contains a mix of both types of filters so that the finish is cosmetically elegant. I’ve shared some of my favourite sunscreens and the cosmetically elegant ones in Sunscreen Reviews: the Best, Worst and Unsafe Sunscreens I’ve Tried.
Besides choosing rosacea friendly skincare; it would be very helpful to avoid specific active ingredients and exfoliants. Ingredients like retinoids are great for anti-aging and treating hyperpigmentation, dull and rough skin but in rosacea and sensitive skin, they can increase skin sensitivity, dryness and redness.
Physical exfoliants like scrubs are especially damaging to the skin. These physical scrubs can cause microtears and increase inflammation, worsening rosacea. Be careful with chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs, they can also irritate the skin.
Some skincare ingredients that I would advise avoiding if you have sensitive skin and rosacea: fragrances, menthol and some alcohols. Not all alcohols in skincare are bad for the skin; some types of alcohols can moisturise the skin. You can read about alcohols in skincare in my contribution to Female Magazine Singapore in The Vodkabulary: When is Alcohol In Skincare A Bad Thing?
If you wear makeup, consider using mineral makeup. Mineral makeup does not contain fragrances, oils and preservatives compared to conventional makeup. The absence of such ingredients in mineral makeup reduces the risk of skin irritation and sensitivity.
To correct the redness from rosacea, makeup experts suggest using green based primers and foundations. Lastly, always remember to remove your makeup before going to bed!
Having the appropriate skincare regimen and medications go hand in hand to keep rosacea at bay. Avoiding triggers and keeping skin protected in rosacea help to reduce flares and symptoms. Besides choosing gentle skincare products, look for active ingredients that keep skin moisturised and repair the skin barrier.
If you’d like to read about treatments for rosacea, please read this blogpost Rosacea: Symptoms, Triggers, Skincare and Treatments.